In the past 60 years, there has been a significant increase in sugar consumption! And surprisingly, only a sixth of our sugar comes from desserts or sweets. In fact, the majority of the sugar we put in our bodies comes from highly processed foods and sweetened drinks. Added sugar is hiding in 74% of packaged foods. Any way you look at it, we are eating too much of it.
Sugar is listed on nutrition labels under a variety of different pseudonyms and is actually in so many foods that we aren’t even aware of. It’s actually kind of scary!
The first thing you should know is that there are two different main types of sugars. There’s free sugars and intrinsic sugars. Free sugars are sugars that are added to foods like fruit juice, packaged oatmeal and granola bars. These are the sugars you want to avoid. Intrinsic sugars are natural and can be found in fruits and vegetables. These are the worry-free sugars. Not all sugar is bad!
That being said, too much sugar in the diet can effect your glucose and insulin function which could lead to diabetes, liver dysfunction, obesity or general weight gain, and increased cholesterol. So, it’s important to know when companies are disguising the sugar in the foods you buy at the supermarket. It has become more common knowledge that food labels list ingredients starting with the largest amount to the lowest. What you might not know, is that many manufacturers list several types of sugars instead of one to push the sugars further down on the ingredient list.
In my opinion, it’s easiest to avoid too much sugar by avoiding eating an abundance of packaged foods. If you stick to natural whole foods, your intake of refined sugars will be limited. Also try to cook more at home. You’d be surprised in what restaurants add sugar to. For instance, Chinese takeout, sushi and pastas all usually contain added sugar.
So, lets talk about alternatives. There are good and bad alternatives for sugar. It’s commonly known now that aspartame, which is in Equal and some diet sodas, is extremely bad for you. Artificial sweeteners can actually increase your desire for sweets and make you addicted. Many people think that honey and agave nectar are good alternatives, however they still contain fructose and glucose, which is the same as sugar. They are no healthier than using raw sugar. The healthiest alternative might be the herb stevia. Although there’s not much research done on the herb, it is the powdered leaf of the stevia plant, which has been shown to actually regulate blood sugar.
When it comes down to it, it’s important to watch the amount of sugar you intake on a daily basis. Try to eat more natural foods without added sugars, preservatives or other additives. But also, life is short, so enjoy your sweets and treat yourself as an occasional treat!